When one refers to the rich history of Latin American football, it can quite safely be assumed than one is normally speaking of the disproportionate amount of influence a country as small as Uruguay has had, the speed with which the beautiful game took off in the early part of the 20
century in Argentina or of course the way Brazilian football has mesmerised us in the later part. In the northern part of the continent, particularly in Venezuela and Ecuador, the game has never really taken off to the same extent.
Indeed as Ecuador’s debut World Cup appearance came as recently as the first competition of the 21
century in Japan and South Korea, and their record at the Copa America is largely dismal, one could be forgiven for taking 2002 as a kind of year X for the quintessential banana republic.
It also follows logically to assume that Ecuador’s finest footballer would be a product of the country’s recent emergence, most likely Antonio Valencia, whose meteoric rise from playing barefoot in the humble surroundings of his dusty hometown Nueva Loja on the border with Colombia to the glitz of gracing a Champions League ...